Sustainability: What’s there to know?

For this first blog I was really trying to figure out how I was going to write about sustainability; it’s a topic that I have been briefly exposed to but have learned that it is much more than what it seems to be, like an abstract concept. After the first two weeks of class I have gotten a chance to learn more about the importance of sustainability and how it affects not only my lifestyle but my future career as well. I will be discussing my reflections of what I expect to get out of this class, readings that we have done in class and thoughts on the movie The 11th Hour.

For me when I hear the word sustainability I think of recycling, growing plants, composting, renewing old items, etc. But I know that there is just so much more to sustainability than those few things. It is sort of an umbrella term for protecting our planet that we are inexplicably destroying without even realizing it. We aren’t mindful of the products and services that we consume because we are a supply and demand economic system. We don’t think about the future as much as we should because we are really harming our planet by not being knowledgeable about how to be sustainable. I think it is awesome the DHM requires their students to take a sustainability course because our possible future careers in fashion are one of the biggest culprits to non-sustainable practices in creating new things. After taking this class I would like to have a better understanding of what sustainability really means and know a little bit about each facet of sustainability. I would like to learn how I can make sustainable choices in my life and modify my behavior. It would also be cool learn about certain companies that strive for sustainable practices so that people could possibly consider as a job opportunity.

In the first week of class we discussed the overview of what the class is about and what we are expected to do. We discussed everyone’s views on sustainability or what they know about it. Everyone seemed to be in the same boat that they knew about sustainability and knew that it was important but couldn’t really put into words what it really was. For the next class period we were asked to read Fashion and Sustainability article by Stuart Walker. I thought the article was very fairly written about the positives and the negatives of fashion and how it affects our planet. He suggests that Fashion and Sustainability are polar opposites. Sustainability means to reduce our carbon footprint on the Earth and protect it. Fashion means a trend or a fad that transcends throughout the seasons and changes quickly. Now to keep up with those changes in trends and fashion it is not a sustainable practice. The positive side of fashion is that it is always something new; new ideas and avenues for creativity. If we could just modify our creative thinking to create sustainable practices for the fashion industry and just make those changes intermittently it could work. Change won’t happen overnight but it’s the simple and small steps to sustainability that count.

The second week of class we were required to do more readings discussing Fashioning Sustainability and The story of Easter Island. The fashioning sustainability article was a basic overview of all the reasons why fashion and sustainability don’t exactly mesh. Cotton is one of the most used fibers to create clothing and growing cotton can be extremely harsh on the land, the farmers, and the workers. It is stated that farmers have committed suicide over failed cotton harvest or growth. This was a very shocking statement to me. When growing cotton either organically or with chemicals it is still harsh on the land and consumption of the fiber. Cotton is a double edged sword because it is one of the greatest fabrics to use in clothing but it is harsh on the environment almost no matter what. Animal welfare comes into play when creating fashion. Furs, leather, silk, are the top fashion items that get the most backlash for animal cruelty because a lot of companies don’t care about the animals they just want what they can provide them; their skin. Even in cruelty free environments there is no sure way to know that the animals were not harmed in the making of them becoming a leather bag or a fur coat. Raising animal awareness is very important because these animals could become extinct or biologically messed up since we are deciding when their death is and it isn’t natural.

We all know about the horrors of sweatshops and extremely low pay in some fashion manufacturing companies. But I think another important topic of fashion is the mindfulness of consumers. Consumers have no idea where there clothes came from more than half of the time. They see on the tag “Made in China” and don’t really think anything of it. Consumers also don’t think about how much care goes into having their clothes or what they plan to do with them after they are finished with them. I believe consumers need to think more about the practicality of their garments before purchasing new things. These new clothes are wants not always needs and we need to learn about ways to dispose or exchange our clothing once they no longer serve a purpose to us.

The lessons of Easter Island really stood out to me because it was like a juxtaposition of what happened on a very small island hundreds of years ago and how it relates to what we are doing to the planet Earth. The inhabitants of Easter Island came there with very few people, some chickens and rats. The island was not very conducive for native animals or indigenous plants but it did have lots of trees to start. The people of Easter Island began building the statues that are sometimes referred to as the Easter Island heads; this was their livelihood and religion. The trees provided the transportation of the very heavy statues across the island and to make a quarry big enough to make these statutes they had to tear the trees down. After a while there were no more trees and the civilization began depleting. In my understanding this is what we are doing to our planet. We are on our way to depleting our resources and fossil fuels without any thought about it. Even though there is a heighten awareness of these topics no one is really doing anything significant to change it just yet. We have to cut back drastically to stop from more damage than what we have already done to the Earth.

Which leads me to my final topic of the movie called The 11th Hour. This movie brings so much traumatizing footage of what we are doing to our planet that it could make anyone want to jump on being sustainable. We have to modify our behavior as a society to cut back on the damage we have done. Raising awareness is only one part of getting people involved its actually making lots of people make a change in their behavior to really create a difference. I think a movie is a great way to reach out to people because visually seeing the impacts on the earth are what make it more realistic to the viewer than maybe an article discussing it, in my opinion. I liked how the movie interviewed several different people from several different careers about why they believe sustainability is so important and why we have to make the change. It gives a broad view of ideas and discussion which can reach out to many people in different fields. Fashion isn’t the only industry that harms our planet. In the movie they discussed how humans are like a virus on Earth and it is trying to cleanse itself of the virus. I believe in this. The planet can only take so much change to its ecosystems, economy, land, air, and water before it backfires to try and cleanse its sickness. WE are creating this sickness and we need to learn how to cure ourselves from being a disease. We need the Earth the Earth doesn’t need us.

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